Trail Mail

     The mail service on the Gunflint Trail is great.  Some people are surprised we have delivery 6 days of the week just like everywhere else.  When I send a letter to someone in the United States they usually get it in 2-3 days.  In the summer I just have to bring the mail to our box that is about 60 yards from our place.  In the winter, or from November through April, we have to bring the mail to our box out on the Gunflint Trail.  The Gunflint Trail is exactly one mile from Voyageur so we sometimes complain about this hardship.  I didn’t realize how easy we had it until I received an e-mail the other day from a Gunflint Trail Friend, Upton Rehnberg, who was commenting on my recent blog entry about snowshoeing.

"Reading your item about your snowshoe trek reminded me of a story I heard many years ago from the Blankenburgs.  Back in the early days the Gunflint Trail was plowed open only to Gunflint Lake during the winter.  Russell and Eve spent their winter "snowbound" on Sea Gull Lake and spent much of their time reading.  Once a week, however, they snowshoed from Sea Gull to Gunflint to get their mail.  The route was described as east on Sea Gull Creek, south on Granite River, and across Gunflint Lake to the Gunflint Resort, a "jaunt" of about 12 miles.  They would then stay overnight at Gunflint and then snowshoe back home the next day.  That must have been a very invigorating "walk in the woods". 

     I guess I shouldn’t complain about walking or driving a mile to our mailbox!  When I was thinking about mail service I remembered John Beargrease and why there is a sled dog marathon in his honor.  John and his brothers used to deliver the mail up the North Shore of Lake Superior.  After reading about their mail delivery I guess I should be even more thankful for the service we have today.  The following is from the Beargrease Marathon website.  

     John Beargrease and his brothers were avid hunters and trappers and made regular trips to the region along their well-established Lake Shore Trail trap line. Recognizing the opportunity, John and his brothers picked up the job of delivering the mail by simply tossing a mailbag or two into existing packs.

     For almost twenty years, between 1879 and 1899, John Beargrease and his brothers delivered the mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. With the limited equipment available and loads weighing as much as 700 lbs. The trip was made once a week…an incredible feat for one man to accomplish especially when you consider the constant range of altitude along the shore.

     Through the seasons, the Beargrease brothers used a variety of methods to transport the mail including canoes, horses and large boats. John Beargrease himself was best known for his winter travels by dogsled. His sled looked more like a toboggan than today’s sleds and he ran with teams of only four dogs. His fastest trip on dogsled was 28 hours from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. Without the weight, and with today’s advances in technology, Beargrease mushers can accomplish the same trip in little better time, with teams of up to sixteen dogs.